Don’t the people you love just fucking suck sometimes??
Sorry, that was abrupt. But it’s true.
I know from 10 years of coaching on our retreat program that the relationships that cause us the most resentment and misery are those with people for whom we feel the most love, or at least, the people we feel obliged to love.
Most of us get frustrated with family and friends because we don’t feel like they give us what we need.
We spend years waiting for our best friend to show a certain interest in our work, or for that parent to say the right words that will validate us as adults, or for that sibling to come visit us where we live, see our families, and spend more time with their nephews and nieces.
When those people inevitably let us down, bitterness surfaces. And we can be stuck here for years if we’re not careful.
We slowly poison ourselves with years of unresolved anger and resentment – it stops us trying, it makes us feel worthless, it becomes our go-to excuse.
If that sounds familiar, ask yourself: Why are you waiting for other people to give you these things? Why do you burn so much energy and emotion feeling furious at the inability of others to change their personality to make you happy?
I know why: Because we feel it’s not enough that people care about us in their own way. We want them to care in the right way. The way we’ve always wanted them to.
Maybe your frustration lies in something seemingly small. Perhaps you think: “Of course I know my mum loves me, but if she just showed an interest in my passion for music it would feel like she really cares about what’s important to me”.
But the problem is, people show they care in a hundred different ways. And not always the way we hope they will.
And lest I seem ambiguous here, let me say: I know this is EXCRUCIATINGLY ANNOYING. It cuts us deep inside. It leaves emotional scars and pent up anger. But at some stage we all have to make that life-saving decision: when am I going to stop wishing this person were different? Why am I still relying on them for validation I can find elsewhere (or even let go of entirely)?
Besides, sometimes it’s our job to see the ways other people try, even when they don’t get it right.
It’s unfair to expect one person to give us every single piece of validation we require from them – short of them reading our minds, it’s probably never going to happen.
Which is why I want to propose an undervalued route to happiness and contentment in your personal relationship with others. And it is simply: start to expect less from other people.
Or at the very least, to stop expecting everything from everyone.
Some friends will appreciate your work. Your dad might appreciate your intelligence. Your brother might appreciate your kindness. Your cousin might listen to your relationship woes and offer thoughts on your latest career crises.
Then you can get to work on finding a peer group that lifts you up, encourages you, celebrates when you win, and keeps you going when you fail.
How To Stop Being Frustrated In Your Relationships
Our need for universal approval can hold us back in all sorts of ways.
It makes us hesitant, when we need to take action. It makes us wallow in doubt, when we need to be out there in the mud, making mistakes and correcting course. It makes us obsess and waste time hoping for others to give us praise, when we should be focused on our own internal satisfaction.
I’m not saying your frustrations with other people can all just melt away, nor am I saying they aren’t based on legitimate grievances.
Yes, the fact that your sister or cousin never comes to see you may indicate that they don’t give a shit. Your mum’s constant chastising may make you feel like your accomplishments are worthless. That’s a terrible shame. But you now have the choice about what value you are going to place on a ONE person’s opinion.
Does it mean you should retaliate by cutting off your relations with them, and refuse to speak to them for the next year? Or does it mean you just need to manage what you expect from that relationship in order to be satisfied with it?
I’ve found a lot more contentment results from allowing people to be who they are and reacting accordingly.
When you stop focusing on the need for others to praise or approve of you in the right way, you can just focus on being with them. You learn to enjoy their company and love them for who they are, instead of who you want them to be.
Choose Your Own Influences
Ok, with family, you pretty much have to love them (or at least learn to get along with them!), but what about everyone else in your sphere of influence?
If someone proves to be constantly difficult, negative, selfish, critical, unhelpful, and generally a pain in the ass – you have two choices:
(1) Communicate the problem, so they know how you feel.
(2) Take responsibility for how much influence you allow that person to have in your world.
If I could give one piece of advice for mental sanity and happiness, it would be to be very, very stingy about which people you devote time, emotion and energy to in your life.
Choose people in your world whose values for friendship, kindness, considerateness, positivity fall strongly in line with your own. And distance yourself quickly from those who do not.
No matter how mentally strong you think you are, people will influence your behaviour and mood more than probably any other part of your existence.
Bad moods are infectious. So is confidence. So is kindness.
Your decision to be around and affected by those close to you can either pay dividends and lift your sense of well-being every day, or it can make achieving any satisfaction a thankless struggle that becomes near impossible due to the toxic behaviour around you.
Always be choosing the people around you: choose who you talk to, who you go to lunch with, who you work with, and who you deal with: the people around you can either be act as a constant roadblock or your secret weapon – do whatever it takes to find your crowd.
But if your happiness in the relationship is dependent on them making a sudden, dramatic change, and you won’t be satisfied until it happens…you’ll be waiting a long time to be happy.
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24 Replies to “The Biggest Choice You’ll Make Every Day Towards Your Happiness”
Have you bugged my house or something? I was just talking about this issue this morning! I have expectations of my married brother to contact me more often when that’s unrealistic. So needed this Stephen! Love you and your articles on here. God Bless!
This is a great topic! I was just having a conversation in the group I facilitate at work about expectations and “shoulds”. I learned in grad school to, “stop shoulding all over yourself, others, and the world”. If we constantly have unattainable expectations of ourselves, others, and the world, we will be in a constant state of disappointment. This is one of my favorite concepts in cognitive behavioral therapy. Thoughts are powerful, and a lot of people do not realize how out of control their expectations really are.
I also like the piece about cutting toxic people out. It can be difficult sometimes, but it is necessary when they have a negative affect on you. I have had to do this a couple of times, and I have to say, the results are almost instantaneous.
The piece about expecting everything from your partner goes back to the concept of needing someone else to provide you with happiness as opposed to you being happy to begin with, and sharing that with a partner. Being in a relationship is a give and take situation. You have to have something to offer.
There are a lot of things to reflect on in this one.
Thanks, Steve! I get excited every week knowing you have a fresh article coming. :)
I am with you on the toxic people thing, Arianna! I have had a couple of friendships that ended after a long time of coming to realize that things weren’t good, trying to work things out, and then understanding that I was never going to be able to…so it was either a) keep a friendship I wasn’t happy with and just live with the way things were or b) draw a line and step over it. It felt bad at the time, like I was giving up on something that could have been “fixed,” but in fact I don’t think those relationships were fixable, and as soon as they were over, I felt immense relief!
That said, it’s also been important to realize the difference between that situation and having friends who are important to me and who I want to keep in my life, but who do things that really bother me. No one you love is NEVER going to piss you off, so learning to manage what you expect from people and not let frustration get in the way of good relations is also key.
I like this post. :)
Absolutely. Some relationships are worth putting the effort into to make things work. The hard part can be finding that point where you draw the line. The point where you say to yourself, I have given all that I am willing to give of my time, effort, and energy. It feels great to do that when amother person is truly an emotional vampire. It makes a huge difference.
I also believe that disagreememt, and arguments can helpful in relationships, if done correctly. With respect, good communication, and compromise, those tough situations can help us grow within the relationship.
I liked this post too! ;)
Hi Steve! I liked the topic, my only issue would be, how cut toxic people out of your circle, when they are inside your team and you have to work with them directly. I guess changing job, is not the best answer! :P
That is a frustrating situation, Mariana! I’m struggling with that right now with a committee that I’m on. Communication is persistently bad, for no reason that makes sense, and I’m finding myself having to mediate my own frustration very often, and many of my decisions are to limit contact rather than engage in battle, which is good for my sanity but doesn’t help to get things done. I am thinking of quitting the committee (for all the reasons Stephen lists), which will solve the frustration issue but is not a constructive solution to dysfunction! And isn’t so feasible when it’s your job on the line. Do you have anyone at work you can talk to about it?
Hi Emily, yes, I talked about the issue with another colleague and she is stepping in as a mediator for the issue. I hope things to go better with her intervention. Let´s see how things will evolve. :)
Oh, that’s great! I hope it goes well!
this article was very thought-provoking and insightful. Your advise feels empowering, because when you stop making external factors like other people responsible for your happiness, you can have a much better life and waste less energy. At the same time you can focus to work on yourself and your own attitude. In general I follow that asvise.
However, you say if it´s family menmbers, you´d have to love them. I agree. But what do you do, when a family member is constantly negative, an enery and life sucker? How do you tell them, your standard for kindness and positive energy in people you usually surround yourself with is higher than what they can live up to. It´s tricky because you don´t want to hurt them.
My stepmum is a nightmare, but she and my dad expect me to spend time with them and like her, which I find difficult. Normally I stay away from negative people like her. What would you recomment?
I´d appreciate your advise and am grateful for this one.
Thanks a lot,
I would like to ask you if the attitude towards a guy: Nothing or Everything will make us happier (avoiding the pain of accepting 40% for example) or it creates the opposite?
I have this with a friend of mine:
She can be very upfront and provoking, is about 10 years older than me so it seems that we wouldn’t have much in common.
But we do somehow, we’ve both danced a lot, both travelled Israel, both working our asses off and have crazy schedules.
Even though I’m very spontaneous – she’s worse!:D
I try to – and have to – learn to plan and she just hates it.
I sometimes jump on her call, and she’s capable of agreeing like one day in advance to meet up.
Altogether it’s hilarious and I love her and wouldn’t change her for the world!
She wouldn’t anyway;) it’s great because I also don’t have to. There’s no reading each others minds – great for me to learn to confront a bit and she can take it, easy.
It’s all very relaxed, we have no expectations.
We can’t just expect everything from one person just because we don’t have other people right now that share other areas of our lives with us.
Still I think everybody needs to have some people in their lives to whom they know they matter.
When I heard she had an accident lately it was no question I go to see her in hospital, no matter how little sleep I got.
She didn’t make a big deal out of it but I saw she valued it and it mattered to her.
She waited one day to text me so I don’t feel bad as it happened on her way home after we were out – how dare she, but really sweet – also she was on heavy meds:)
So altogether to have a little bit of this feeling that we don’t just jump out of each other’s lives, and some growing trust out of little things we do for each other is a good thing to have.
Awesome blog.This is really good and helpful.
One of the most important things that I have learned in the last year is that nobody is responsible for making me happy. Only YOU are responsible for doing that every single day. The right person can make you happier, but they cannot make you essentially happy. Learning how to do that was the best gift that I ever gave myself. Now when I approach any relationship (work, friend, sexual etc.) my expectations are way lower because it isn’t there job to make me happy. I hold myself responsible for that now. LIFE CHANGER!
Hi Ashley, how did u manage to learn that? Is it really possible to learn? I know everything im doing wrong but I just can’t stop my mind from thinking the way it does…really struggling with that :/
Great post! Love it when you post about things that apply to all facets of life and love. Keep it coming.
This is spot on!! Can totally relate to this.
Awesome. Matthew, I hope soon that you will expand your scope to broader life-coaching, because the truth is, you are giving the keys to the kingdom here. I wish someone had told me this at 10 years old.
Love to you!
I could totally relate to this. Just the other week I realized I put too much expectations into a “hopefully something” which lead to my disappointment and ruin my feelings. No expectation = no disappointment. Great article. Thank you :)
AWESOME advice! Thank you so much for this. I’ve come to this same realization over the past couple months and have been “taking back my power”, as it were, from people who I’ve allowed to frustrate me and/or make me feel “unworthy” (for lack of a better word) because they don’t care for me the way I care for them. Will be improving my new mindset as 2016 rolls around.
Thanks again! I really needed to read this today.
I need a one on one with you please…
Excellent post, it is everything I have been working on this year… I have come to realise that you should treat family like friends.. You do no have to “learn to get along with them”.. If a person is toxic, they are toxic, related or not. It is harder to set boundaries / let these people go, but if it makes you a happier person, you just have to do it..
This is one reason why I hate Christmas, Family especially come out of the wood works, you haven’t seen them in a year, you don’t get along but you “have” to visit because “its christmas”.. Then people act like everything is okay, all while waiting to leave. it is extremely fake.. I’ve learned to just engage with the family I genuinely want to see and let the others do their own thing…
I get this and i am trying so hard to make myself happy and i get better and better all the time.
I am about to end a relationship because he has addiction issues (smoking and drinking) which aren’t aligned with my values. I have given him many chances so the line where it says “But if your happiness in the relationship is dependent on them making a sudden, dramatic change, and you won’t be satisfied until it happens…you’ll be waiting a long time to be happy.” Worries me because i want to be happy but he doesn’t want to help himself and i cannot be with someone like that. I want to be with someone who has similar health goals to me. I have tried to look at the good in my current man but it isn’t enough. I feel stuck how I can successfully live a happy life. What do you think?
I really needed to read this right now. Excellent advice, thank you.
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